Wellington Scoop

Searchers find inflatable boat, but no sign of man missing off Wairarapa coast

News from Maritime NZ
An inflatable boat used by a 72-year-old man missing off the Wairarapa coast has been found by an RNZAF P3 Orion, but no sign of the man has been found.

The 2-3m inflatable boat was found late on Friday 68km (37 nautical miles) off the coast. The family have confirmed it is the missing man’s boat. The search has now been suspended.

The Martinborough man went out from Sandy Bay near Te Awaiti at 11am on Thursday to set a crayfish pot. The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) managed a search involving the Orion, helicopters, two fishing boats, and a land-based coastal search on Saturday, without finding the man.

Today the Police Dive Squad will search Sandy Bay, near the man’s crayfish pot at the mouth of the bay. A further coastal search will also be undertaken.

RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Keith Allen praised the efforts of the Orion crew in finding the inflatable boat. “They have searched thousands of square kilometres and to find a boat that small is a tremendous effort.”

Wellington.Scoop – January 11
A 72-year-old Martinborough man is missing after he went out to set a crayfish pot in a small inflatable boat at Sandy Bar near Te Awaiti, east of Martinborough. Police were last night alerted to his unoccupied motor vehicle and trailer at the beach and a search is continuing today.

Police inquiries revealed that the man went to the area at about 11.00am yesterday morning to set a crayfish pot.

Weather conditions during the day consisted of very high off shore winds and rough seas. The Westpac rescue helicopter was deployed to the area to search but was forced to return due to high winds.

An Air Force Orion was due to search the area at 6am this morning.

News from Maritime NZ – January 11
A search is underway for a 72-year-old Martinborough man missing off the south Wairarapa coast near Te Awaiti. The man is understood to have left from Sandy Bay at 11am yesterday in a 2-3m inflatable boat to set a crayfish pot. His motor vehicle and trailer were reported to police around 8.30pm last night.

The man’s dog, which he took with him on boat, was found with the vehicles this morning.

Strong winds yesterday prevented searching by the Westpac helicopter but an RNZAF P3 Orion began searching the area at 6am today. A helicopter from Masterton has completed an initial shoreline search.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) has now tasked a winch-capable Helipro helicopter to conduct a further shoreline search and cover the area inshore area, with two search and rescue teams also heading to the area to search the coastline. Two fishing boats are also involved in the search.

RCCNZ mission coordinator Keith Allen said man was known to be wearing a wetsuit and lifejacket.

“We are searching the inshore area to check he is not clinging to crayfish pots, and the Orion is also looking checking an area up to 90km (50 nautical miles) offshore,” he said.